Anxious People

Anxious People

by

Fredrik Backman

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Zara’s Letter Symbol Analysis

Zara’s Letter Symbol Icon

Zara’s letter represents the dangers and consequences of isolation, silence, and being unwilling to connect with others. Ten years before the novel begins, Zara denied a man a loan. The man wrote her a letter and then died by suicide by jumping off a bridge. In the novel’s present, Zara still hasn’t opened the letter—she’s afraid that it will confirm that the man’s suicide was her fault and that she’s a bad person. She carries around immense guilt for her role in the man’s choice to take his own life, but Zara is too proud and afraid to share any of these feelings with anyone. However, throughout her counseling sessions with Nadia, Zara feels compelled to hand over the letter, which she believes will “explain everything.” This highlights how much Zara wants to connect with others, even as she denies ever wanting this—and how much her fear and anxiety about her perceived moral standing hold her back from connecting to other people.

It’s only after the hostage drama, when Zara meets Lennart and connects somewhat with the other hostages, that she takes the letter to Nadia and asks Nadia to open it for her. And what the letter says—that the man’s suicide wasn’t Zara’s fault—symbolically sets her free. Knowing it wasn’t her fault, and that she’s been needlessly torturing herself for a decade, pushes Zara to quit her unfulfilling job, give her fortune away, and even help Nadia and Jack connect with each other. Additionally, Zara’s final appearance in the novel shows her dropping the letter itself off the bridge—and then getting in Lennart’s car (it’s implied the two are romantically involved by this and plan to stay together for a while). Divesting herself of the letter gives Zara the freedom and the confidence to finally pursue a romantic relationship after years of loneliness, anxiety, and fear, and the novel implies that Zara becomes a much happier person after she finds a way to connect with others.

Zara’s Letter Quotes in Anxious People

The Anxious People quotes below all refer to the symbol of Zara’s Letter. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
).
Chapter 26 Quotes

In the meantime Zara was standing in the elevator. Halfway down she pressed the emergency stop button so she could cry in peace. The letter in her handbag was still unopened, Zara had never dared read it, because she knew the psychologist was right. Zara was one of the people who deep down wouldn’t be able to live with knowing that about herself.

Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 69 Quotes

“But you know what, Zara? I’ve learned that it helps to talk about it. Unfortunately I think most people would still get more sympathy from their colleagues and bosses at work if they show up looking rough one morning and say ‘I’m hungover’ than if they say ‘I’m suffering from anxiety.’ But I think we pass people in the street every day who feel the same as you and I, many of them just don’t know what it is. Men and women going around for months having trouble breathing and seeing doctor after doctor because they think there’s something wrong with their lungs. All because it’s so damn difficult to admit that something else is…broken. That it’s an ache in our soul, invisible lead weights in our blood, an indescribable pressure in our chest.”

Related Characters: Nadia/The Psychologist/The Girl (speaker), Zara/The Woman
Related Symbols: Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 319-320
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 70 Quotes

The man who sent it to her ten years ago wrote down everything he thought she needed to know. It was the last thing he ever told anyone. Only four words in length, no more than that. The four biggest little words one person, anyone at all, can say to another:

It wasn’t your fault.

By the time the letter hits the water Zara is already walking away, toward the far side of the bridge. There’s a car parked there, waiting for her. Lennart is inside it. Their eyes meet when she opens the door. He lets her put the music on as loud as she wants. She’s planning to do her utmost to get tired of him.

Related Characters: The Man on the Bridge (speaker), Zara/The Woman, Lennart/The Rabbit
Related Symbols: The Bridge, Zara’s Letter
Page Number: 322-323
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Anxious People LitChart as a printable PDF.
Anxious People PDF

Zara’s Letter Symbol Timeline in Anxious People

The timeline below shows where the symbol Zara’s Letter appears in Anxious People. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 18
Parenting and Fear Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...God laughed. The man on the bridge, meanwhile, wrote the woman at the bank a letter, writing “exactly what he wanted her to hear.” He jumped that day, and the woman... (full context)
Chapter 24
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...how [she’s] feeling.” The psychologist can’t sleep that night. Zara considers showing the psychologist the letter in her bag, which explains everything. (full context)
Chapter 26
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...bad, and so they justify the bad things they do. Zara almost reaches for the letter in her purse, and she almost confesses that she’s been looking at apartments for 10... (full context)
Chapter 27
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Ten years ago, a man wrote and mailed a letter to a woman at the bank and then jumped off a bridge. A week later,... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...is at the apartment because 10 years ago, the man who jumped wrote her a letter. Zara has been carrying that letter with her everywhere, but she’s only been to the... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...wants to know the difference between the man and Nadia, but she hasn’t opened the letter because she doesn’t want to know that it was her fault. This whole story is... (full context)
Chapter 69
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
The Modern World Theme Icon
...Nadia hangs up, Zara knocks at the door and lets herself in. She’s holding a letter. Confused, Nadia asks if they have an appointment, but then she notices Zara is trembling... (full context)
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...jokes, but she finally begins crying out of terror. Hesitantly, she lets go of the letter, and Nadia picks it up. Zara can’t say that she came here the first time... (full context)
Chapter 70
Marriage, Conflict, and Communication Theme Icon
Mental Health and Connection Theme Icon
Assumptions  Theme Icon
...The wind catches the paper, and finally, Zara’s fingers can stop struggling to hold that letter. Ten years ago, the man wrote everything he wanted Zara to know. His letter was... (full context)